Message from UNISON: Parents – You have the power, use it!
Teenagers find themselves at a crossroads ─ especially in the spring where they find themselves enjoying prom and graduation parties ─ facing widespread use and availability of drugs and alcohol. Every day, 2500 teenagers use a prescription drug to get high for the first time. And alcohol use remains extremely widespread among today’s teenagers. Nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by the eighth grade.
One bad decision can impact their entire future and parents should intervene now before an irreversible choice has been made.
Unison Behavioral Health Group has launched their spring prom and graduation campaign and urges parents and caring adults to participate. The “Live to Celebrate Another Day” campaign is designed to increase awareness of alcohol and drug use, misuse, and abuse during the graduation months of April through June where one third of alcohol-related fatalities involving teens occur.
Dr. Bonnie Kauffmann, Director of Unison Behavioral Health Group’s Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program for Youth, encourages parents to intervene—even when it seems like your teen does not care. Dr. Kauffmann states that, “based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to: act on impulse, misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions, get into accidents of all kinds, get involved in fights, engage in dangerous or risky behavior.
“We also know that adolescents are less likely to: think before they act, pause to consider the potential consequences of their actions, modify their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors.” The teenage brain is different and being aware of these differences can help parents and concerned adults manage the behavior of adolescents. Dr. Kauffmann reminds parents that “74% of kids (8-17) said their parents are the leading influence on their decisions about drinking and using drugs.”
Dr. Bonnie Kauffmann and the staff at Unison Behavioral Health Group know all too well that addiction is a developmental disease, typically beginning in adolescence. Dr. Kauffmann’s team currently treats 100 adolescents who suffer from substance abuse and dependence disorders. The teens involved in Unison’s program often have family and school problems, poor academic performance, health problems (including mental health), and involvement in the juvenile justice system. These teens often begin to abuse alcohol and/or drugs during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce.
Dr. Kauffmann advises parents, caregivers, and concerned adults to recognize that youth diagnosed with the following mental health disorders are at an increased risk for substance abuse: attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and bipolar disorder.
Warning signs to look for include: sudden changes in personality, drop in school performance and attendance, sudden and frequent outbursts (temper tantrums), increasing conflict with family members, withdrawal from responsibility, changes in peer group, borrowing/stealing money, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in hobbies, secretive behavior regarding actions and possessions, change in appearance, poor grooming habits, and redness around the eyes or face.
Unison Behavioral Health Group treats youth ages 11-17 with substance abuse and dependence disorders, including behavioral health disorders. Through an integrated team approach, the program offers clients and their families the option of receiving services in their home or in our offices at 1212 Cherry Street.
Youth involved with Unison’s substance abuse treatment program also have full access to the agency’s psychiatric services.
Professionals and family members who are concerned about a child’s behavior and suspect a mental health condition and/or substance abuse, can obtain confidential support by calling Unison Behavioral Health Group at 419-693-0631.
Information on Unison’s “Live to Celebrate Another Day” prom and graduation campaign can found by visiting the agency’s website at www.unisonbhg.org.